Head to Head Review
The Lamy Vista, the clear version of the Safari, is one of our most popular pens and is definitely an entry level fountain pen, and it has been enduringly popular in our office. However since we've recently taken another range of pens under our wing, Kaweco, I've decided to pit what I think is the equivalent pen from their range against the Vista. The Classic Sport is in many ways the Kaweco equivalent of the Safari and it comes in a transparent version as well which I think is the closest you can get .
In the interest of 'transparency' (get it?), I will admit that I have been using a Lamy Vista exclusively for quite a few months, so its had plenty of time to win over my heart, thus this review might have a tiny bias towards the Vista. Although I have had my eye on the Kaweco pens for some time as well.
Both from well established German brands, the Sport and the Vista are design classics with a twist in that they are transparent. The same designs are available in a range of colours in the Lamy Safari range and the Kaweco Classic and Skyline ranges. The overall style of the Vista is very modern, everything is on show and either clear or shiny metal, the only style part I dislike is the size of the Lamy logo on it an the black plastic screw in the top. The Kaweco plastic is a little less clear in my opinion but still looks good. The Kaweco Classic has gold coloured trimmings that I think it make the pen look a bit more expensive than it actually is and the cap has the logo in gold rather than just a black screw top as found on the Vista.
The Kaweco overall I think is a bit more stylish, even though it takes a more classic approach and I would have preferred if it had a demonstrator like the Vista. This is obviously down to personal preference though.
Scores. Lamy: 8 Kaweco: 9
This is where it comes down more to what you require from a fountain pen rather than personal taste.
Firstly the nibs of the two, you can change the nibs on the Vista very easily, which you can't do with the Kaweco, you have to buy separate front parts of the pen. This won't be a problem for people who know what size they prefer and won't need to change it, but as someone who writes with a 1.1 Lamy nib most of the time but sometimes needs to change it to a medium or fine nib its very useful to be able to change the nib on the vista so readily.
In terms of the overall quality of the nibs I think the Vista wins, although I prefer the look of the gold Kaweco nib, especially with its decorative engravings, however the Lamy nib writes a little bit better even with cheaper inks.
A little feature I had never really appreciated until I had to push my new cartridge into the Kaweco is the ridges inside the barrel of the Vista that allow you to simply place the cartridge in and then twist the barrel back on in order to attach it. This does impact the style aspect of the Vista in the at ridges give it less of a clean look but it is a very clever design element that a lot of people will appreciate.
One of the main features of a Kaweco that convinced me was the size of the pen, with its cap on it is about 3/4 the size of the Vista, making it superbly portable. The cap also screws on the Kaweco so there's very little worry of it leaking whilst you keep it in your pocket. The way the cap forms part of the pen barrel when you post it is very clever and it fits quite comfortably in the hand.
The Vista, like the Safari, is known for their triangular 'ergonomic' grip, which I've found in the past does help me keep my pen in a good grip and at a consistent angle, however I do know people that don't like the grip so it may not be for everyone. The Kaweco simply has a gently curved grip section, so whether you prefer this or not depends on how you hold your pen.
The Vista also comes with a clip automatically, which the Kaweco does not. This means that there is an added cost if you do want a clip but it's much easier to change them depending on your style. I personally don't ever use the clip on my Vista so not having one doesn't make a huge impact, in fact in makes the pen lighter and thus more portable, also the octagonal barrel design on the Kaweco stops it from rolling off your desk without a clip.
Now for the part that most fountain pen users might not even consider, and that is turning the pen into what is called an 'eyedropper'. This is when you seal the pen so that you can fill the barrel completely with ink, increasing its capacity massively and in the case of a transparent pen, making it look very eye-catching. Of course this is not without risk, and a pen that is not properly sealed runs the risk of some serious leaking. Mishka has done a very thorough guide to converting the Lamy Vista into one of these, which due to the holes in the side and end takes a lot more steps than with the Kaweco. I turned my Kaweco into one simply by taking out the cartridge and squeezing the ink into the barrel with a pipette. Using Herbin Anniversary ink I think it looks great with the gold flecks inside, and so far I have had no leaks so this for me is a big boon in the favour of the Kaweco. Although I would only recommend doing this if you are confident with it and know the inky risks involved.
* N.B. It has leaked a little since converting to an eyedropper so I would advise following some of the steps in Mishka's guide to make sure it is well sealed.
So overall I think the Vista has lots of little design features that all add up to quite an impressive product but the fantastic portability of the Kaweco's design and its easy transformation into an eyedropper keep it in line with the Vista.
Scores. Lamy: 9 Kaweco; 9
A lot of points about each pens usability have already been covered under features, but each pen is quite different to use; the Vista is slightly more comfortable to use and if you are using cartridges a bit easier to refill, but the Kaweco wins out for portability by a long stretch.
For writing its quite close but I think the Vista wins over longer stretches of writing due to the grip and comfort, but I feel like the medium nib on a Kaweco is ever so slightly thinner and I prefer the lines it writes.
The screw cap on the Kaweco helps me worry less about it leaking whilst I transport it in my pocket, but it also makes it slower to start writing since you have to post the cap. The Kaweco's cap has also just been great as an object to fiddle with during the day so I'll admit I don't begrudge the extra time to unscrew it.
Scores. Lamy: 9 Kaweco: 8
Value for money
Both pens are definitely in the cheaper end of fountain pens, but the Vista is certainly a bit cheaper than the Kaweco, coming in at £13.95 as opposed to £17.95 for the Kaweco. This makes it a great and affordable first pen, but I think for people who have used a fountain pen before and are ready for something just one step up the Kaweco is a great pen, especially if you need to carry it around with you a lot. If you need a clip as well the total price of your Kaweco does go up so even though I don't use one I must deduct a few points.
Scores. Lamy: 10 Kaweco: 8
It's been a closely fought race, and over the course of it I think I've managed to fall in love with both pens. Over time I wonder which pen I will actually use more, as the portability and style of the Kaweco really appeal to me, but as of writing this I think the Vista wins by virtue of its value for money and the ease of use. However I do whole heartedly recommend the Kaweco Sport as a good intro fountain pen, especially if you want something portable. I know I myself am currently saving up for a Brass Sport.
Total scores. Lamy: 36 Kaweco: 34